Whenever a melody isn’t coming to me, I tend to slow it down.
Instead of rushing through my chord progression I allow each note its own place, easing into the song as it goes.
There’s something innately rhythmic and natural about slowing something down, and accepting a new tempo. The process usually gives me the time I need to settle into a hook.
However, it's a tremendous task to slow anything down.
The previous two weeks have been quite a whirlwind, and admittedly, I’ve had a very difficult time catching a breath. To put things in perspective: instead of carrying out our usual Valentine’s Day tradition my husband and I decided to play an acoustic set at Urban Vines this past Wednesday night. It was a lovely evening, but one small impression on how we've been utilizing our time during the single release. Both of us have poured a good amount of free time (outside of our usual full-time jobs) into rehearsing, re-writing, arranging, promoting, marketing, and booking. As an independent musician, consistently juggling the many facets of a musical career without a team behind you is inevitable, but no easy feat.
So this afternoon, I decided to reflect on my songwriting process (ironically enough) for a little insight.
If you want more time, freedom, and energy, start saying no.
At this moment, over 200 tracks sit precariously in my iTunes playlist entitled “voice memos”. I scrolled the bottom of the playlist out of curiosity, and discovered that it contains nearly 800 minutes of music. Each soundbyte is a tiny snippet of a melody, a guitar lick, or possibly a few progressions tied in with some lyrics.
I did a little backtracking and considering I’ve only had my current computer for less than a year, I figured about six of those “voice memos” made it through the demoing process and became a completely written song.
Learn to say no.
I’ve learned to throw away something that isn’t resonating with me in the moment. Of course, I store it away in case it happens to inspire me later—this past month I finally completed a short blip of a melody I had recorded last August. If I had tried to push out that song in the moment it was created, the song wouldn’t have been where it is today.
Stop edifying a busy lifestyle.
I am a sucker for a clear-cut, organized, beautifully scheduled timeline. I hoard calendars like it’s my hobby, and love to fill them up with a glorified version of my “to do” list for each day, respectively.
We love to celebrate a busy lifestyle—the more songs I’ve written, the less sleep I’ve gotten, the more productive I’ve been.
The less sleep I’ve gotten.
If I’m sacrificing the quality of songs over the quantity, does it actual benefit my catalogue in the end?
It’s an easy picture to illustrate when it comes to songwriting, but translating that kind of patience in life takes time and effort—something that isn’t easy to come by.
That being said, be intentional about the time you’re spending.
I give myself two hours to song write, per day. If it’s taking longer than two hours, I need to go outside, take a walk, and get out of my own head.
You have to give your brain enough time to reset before the grind—otherwise the work you’ve been trying to accomplish will become a nightmare.
Don’t abuse your free time.
Melissa Camara Wilkins, a celebrated minimalist, suggests making a to-do list of only three items for each day. I subscribe to this (although oftentimes I find myself pushing the limit of three things) to conserve what sanity I have left. If I have three essential things to accomplish in a day, then that’s a much easier task then leaving a hundred or so items on my list.
Giving yourself time to accomplish only three things in a day not only makes it easier to complete, but also will result in more organic, intentional work being accomplished.
Prioritize being present over rushing around.
I put my phone on airplane mode during my songwriting session. I also make an effort not to religiously pull up my Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat tab during that time I’ve set aside.
Not only that, but I choose to write in the early hours of the morning because I know that I won’t be scrambling to get ready for work, attempting to squeeze in my social life, or having to finish writing e-mails.
If I choose to do a co-write I plan it at least a month in advance, with adequate time and space to make arrangements for a pleasant afternoon.
I don’t profess to be a socialite, only because I want to spend quality, intentional time with the people I surround myself with.
I love supporting local artists and grabbing coffee with a fellow songwriter. If I filled up my entire week rushing to and from every event in the city, not only would I go completely mad but I would sacrifice the authenticity of quality time.
“Don’t slide through life. Savor it. Slow down, be kind, pay attention. Because this isn’t going to happen again.” – Carrie Fisher